With wins over the University of Washington, University of Utah, USC and Boise State, the Claremont Braineaters ultimate frisbee team took seventh in the Trouble in Vegas tournament this past weekend.
Going into the tournament, the Braineaters knew they would face stiff competition to come out on top and hoped to improve on their second-place finish in last year’s tournament. The Brains, the 5C Ultimate Frisbee club team and defending DIII National Champs, however, were unable to match their performance from last year, losing to the University of Central Florida in the quarterfinals after cruising through pool play. Claremont went 6-2 overall in the tournament and is now 11-3 this season.
President Zach Purdy HM ’13 captured the Brains play March 3, as he said “We rolled through day one pretty easily, never being down by more than one point all day and leading all the teams by a comfortable margin by the end.”
The Braineaters were the top seed in their pool and definitely showed it on Saturday, even while letting some younger and less-experienced players get some play time. The Brains opened against a relatively inexperienced University of Washington B-team that ultimately could not hang with the Brains and lost 13-8. Next up was the Zion Curtain of the University of Utah and the Ghetto Birds of USC, which the Brains dismantled 13-6 and 13-5 respectively.
In the Brains’ final game of the day, they played their best ultimate of the tournament up to that point, thumping Boise State 13-3. To be fair, Boise State had made the twelve-hour drive from Boise to Vegas the night before, arriving at the field at 5 a.m. for their 8 a.m. game that morning.
After the tournament, senior captain Tommy Li PO ’12 attributed the Brains’ success in pool play to the fact that the Brains “are a better-organized program.”
“Administratively, we have Zack Purdy to keep us organized,” he said. “On the field, I think our leaders have an exceptional level of experience and charisma that surpasses that of other teams. I also think that our collective drive and competitiveness is high.”
The Brains arrived at the field a little after 7 a.m. March 4, a time when very few people are awake in Vegas, for their final game in pool play against George Washington University.
“The first game of Sunday didn’t matter for our overall result, and so it was a nice warm up after a fun-filled night in Vegas,” Purdy said. “Even so, we beat George Washington convincingly, 13-8. Then, it was on to the brackets.”
In the pre-quarter final, the Brains played the Cal Poly Pomona Cows, a strange experience for all the Pomona players on the Brains who were so used to correcting people who mistakenly thought Pomona and Cal Poly Pomona where the same school. The Brains started slow once again and found themselves down a couple of points to the Cows, but thanks to a great defensive play by Devin Drewry PO ’13, the Brains quickly turned things around and “destroyed Cal Poly Pomona in the second half of the pre-quarters,” in the words of captain Sam Trachtman PO ’12. Then came the Brains’ toughest matchup of the season.
UCF was the heavy favorite going into the tournament and were ranked third in DI according to Skyd Magazine, but the Brains looked forward to the opportunity to play one of the best teams in the country. The UCF War Dogs’ biggest threat was their 6’8” cutter, a tough defensive matchup for the relatively vertically-challenged Brains. The War Dogs broke out to an early lead and eventually took the half 7-3. After the half the Brains began to play well and won the second half, but unfortunately, it was too little, too late, and the Brains lost respectably with a score of 10-7. The Brains proved that they could at least hang in with an elite team, a good sign for the program.
“This was the best ultimate team that the Brains have played in three years, so we were all pretty pumped up… Overall, we felt pretty good at this game,” Purdy said. “We played pretty well and kept up intensity through the entire game.” The Brains would go on to lose their final game to North Texas in a closely contested game that was decided on a winner-takes-all universe point.
Despite the two losses to end the tournament, Trouble in Vegas was still a positive experience and an overall success for the Brains. A lot of players stepped up this weekend and played very well, especially first-year Alex Gruver HM ’15, who will be a key part of the Brains’ success.
Most importantly, Claremont saw some things that they can improve on as they continue their quest for another national title. Daniel Geller PO ’13 thought some of the Brains’ weaknesses were definitely fixable.
“What I saw as our weakness was not our talent, which is developing well, but rather our comfort level in tough situations with a relatively young team,” he said. “As the season progresses, I am fully confident we will gain the chemistry and athleticism necessary to compete for another national title.”
Like Geller, Li also remains positive looking toward the rest of the season.
“I try not to think about whether or not we can win DIII nationals” he said. “If we can get everyone playing at the highest level they can this season, I think we will be successful, regardless of the outcome.”
The Brains’ next tournament will be Regionals in early April on the Brains’ home turf with a bid to DIII Nationals on the line.